May 18, 2011
New Labor Union Threats
Just when you thought card check was dead, a new set of issues has arisen that poses a threat to all employers regardless of size.
  • The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is expected to rule that “micro-unit” organizing is permissible. This means a union can carve out workers that are easiest to organize, bypassing other workers in the same facility.
  • The Machinists union is attempting to block Boeing from producing aircraft at its new South Carolina plant on the theory that establishing production outside the Seattle area constitutes an unfair labor practice. The NLRB has filed a formal complaint against Boeing.
  • The NLRB has filed suit against Arizona, and may follow with action targeting Utah, South Carolina and South Dakota, challenging state constitutional amendments that mandate secret ballot union elections.
  • Democrats and their union backers are trying to pass legislation in California that would allow card check for farm workers and ban secret ballot elections.
  • The five-member NLRB board has one vacancy, but the four sitting members are weighted 3-1 in favor of union interests. The chairperson and two board members either served as general counsel for labor unions prior to their appointment, or worked at union-side law firms.
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The micro-unit issue is particularly troublesome. Unions are far more successful in winning elections in small units than large ones. Elections in units with 25 or fewer workers were won by the union nearly 70% of the time over the past few years, and this figure is trending up.
A large employee base has traditionally been good insurance against a successful organizing effort. But since 2005, unions have pushed their win ratio in large units from 40% to 60%. So size doesn’t matter.
Large employers now are exposed to the risk of unionization on two fronts: unions are having far greater success in organizing large units; and the expected NLRB ruling will permit carving out small units within a much larger workforce.
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